Queens Schools on Alert After Driver Tried to Lure Teen Girls

By Paul DeBenedetto on January 29, 2013 6:50am 

QUEENS — Schools in Corona and Flushing are on alert after police said a motorist made two separate attempts to lure teenage girls into his vehicle on Friday.

The unidentified man was driving on Northern Boulevard near 102nd Street in Corona when about 7 a.m. he pulled his late-model black Cadillac Escalade alongside a 13-year-old girl, he said. The man then tried to strike up a conversation with the girl, who, after realizing she didn't know the man, walked away, police said. 

The suspect man then left his vehicle and followed the girl, cops said. At one point, he grabbed her arm, but she was able to pull away and escape.

Later, the same man was driving along Northern Boulevard near Parsons Boulevard about 8 p.m. when he spotted a 14-year-old girl and tried to get her to approach the Escalade, police said. The girl refused, but police said the man continued following her before she managed to ditch the car.

None of the girls were injured, police said.

The two incidents also occurred on the same day a 9-year-old girl was sexually assaulted nearby in Elmhurst, though police said the incidents do not appear to be related.

On Monday, some school officials began making plans to warn children and parents about the dangers of talking to strangers in vehicles. 

At P.S. 92, four blocks from where the first incident occurred — and where a man last year tried to kidnap a young boy — parent coordinator Ana Melendez said the administration was meeting with the principal to come up with a plan before approaching parents.

After incidents like those on Friday, principals usually work together with school safety officials and parents, and one option is to put a buddy system in place, said a spokeswoman from the Department of Education.

Just one block from the scene, at Northern and 103rd Street, the mood at the Learning Tree Multi-Cultural School was tense.

"We're a little on edge right now," said Learning Tree Principal Nicole Bailey. "Immediately, I thought about my students walking home. Were on a very busy street. You've got regular cars, you've got taxis.

"If something should happen to them, they need to know to tell an adult right away," the principal added.

Bailey said she saw news of the incident over the weekend and immediately began planning events in the school to coach children on how they should respond if they were confronted with a similar situation.

The elementary/middle school reached out to parents, sent email blasts about the incident and told kids not to approach strangers. If they walk home alone, administrators advised, call either a parent or the school once they arrive.

The school also acted out a short role-play, in which someone acted as a driver and someone acted as a child, to illustrate the correct way to handle the situation, Bailey said.

"I just want to make sure my children don't get caught up in that," she said.

In Flushing, the mood was similar. Chrissy Voskerichian, president of the 109th Precinct community council, said each of the schools in the neighborhood had been briefed by officers at the precinct.

On the council's Facebook page, an uploaded sketch of the man police believe to be involved was shared 441 times as of Monday night.

"I really have never seen a post like this spread so quickly," Voskerichian said. "People are paying attention. People are getting it out there."

Voskerichian said she also plans to hold an event at the precinct so that kids can learn tips from police officers on how to stay safe from predators.

"We try to get the word out and make people aware of what's going on," Voskerichian said. "From what I understand, the young lady is fine. But it could have been different."

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